50 Must know Travel Tips for Japan.

Thinking about travelling to Japan? Don’t hesitate, it’s a great destination. Full of the absolutely new and the incredibly old. Big cities like Tokyo can be expensive, so make sure you have cash reserves. If you can, search out the traditional and authentic. It helps if you have a local who can speak the language fluently, and is ‘in the know’ as far as customs and taboos go. It’s easy for Westerners to innocently offend or make an embarrassing blunder, simply because they don’t know the local culture.. (but then, that’s true everywhere!) We were lucky. Our guide was a Japanese friend, who took us to lunch in a 600 year old Tokyo restaurant. Not another tourist in sight. we knelt at a small table with a large metal pot hanging over a raging furnace below. Every table in the restaurant (about five, it was tiny), sat above this furnace. So the meal was cooked by your hostess, at the table. It was an incredible, traditional meal and experience, which we would never have enjoyed without local knowledge.

Lost Le Blanc has a terrific video on 50 MUST know JAPAN Travel Tips. We say it’s all good advice.


Dubai on a budget.

Dubai has become one of the world’s major air hubs. It’s certainly a stopover from Australia to Europe and vice versa. It’s airport is enormous. It’s city is super modern, sleek and expensive. So when’s the best time to travel there? Where do you go once you’re there to discover the best products and deals? Where’s the best place to stay? Lost LeBlanc knows Dubai well and shares his knowhow in this great video.

Do you like Dubai? How often have you been?

Dubai for affordable travellers.

How to Travel Europe on $1000 a month.

Alexander Travelbum (great name) creates fun, informative travel videos. This one contains some good advice how to travel Europe on less than $1000 a month. $250 a week is not a lot of cash, but this travelbum proves it can be done.

What’s your travel budget when you travel OS? Do you travel with a strict budget, or just ‘general guidelines’?

Let us know. Hope you enjoy the vid.

Hawaii’s Spectacular Sunrises

One of the great joys of hiking and camping is that you are usually perfectly placed to witness a magnificent sunrise. (or sunset!)  Fold back the tent and lie there marvelling at the grandeur of it all. Which brings us to the 50th US State. Hawaii. A tropical gem in the middle of the Pacific, approximately halfway between the continental US and Australia.

Sunrise seems to be extra special when seen through the silhouette of palm trees, or from the top of a wind swept peak. Hawaii has plenty of both. Immerse yourself and be in awe of the beauty that is an Hawaiian sunrise.

 

Sunrise over Hanapepe Bay

 

An exhilarating Sunrise on top of Haleakala

 

Sunset view on Kauai

 

Sunrise over Kauai Golf Course

 

                                     all images credit Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTS)/ Tor Johnson

 

11 Surefire Landscape Photography tips

A good camera is the traveller’s most important asset, besides their passport that is! And the ability to use it properly, while understanding what it can and cannot do, is paramount. This great article is from Darren Rowse and our friends at the Digital Photography School – it touches on the key elements you need to help you capture a great landscape image – the shot that will make everyone do the instagram double tap.  Have a read, even if you’re a pro, it’s good to be reminded of the basics now and then…and there are some magnificent images!

My first love in photography when I first got my trusty old Minolta SLR as a teenager was landscape photography. There’s something about getting out in nature with the challenge of capturing some of the amazing beauty that you see. Perhaps it fits with my personality type – but I loved the quietness and stillness of waiting for the perfect moment for the shot, scoping out an area for the best vantage point and then seeing the way that the light changed a scene over a few hours.

11 landscape photography tips

By skoeber

While I don’t get as much time as I’d like for Landscape Photography these days – I thought I’d jot down a few of the lessons that I learned in my early years of doing it.

1. Maximize your Depth of Field

Maximising depth of field in landscape photography

By Louis Vest

2. Use a Tripod

Landscape photography tips - use a tripod.

By Mike Behnken

As a result of the longer shutter speed that you may need to select to compensate for a small aperture you will need to find a way of ensuring your camera is completely still during the exposure. In fact even if you’re able to shoot at a fast shutter speed the practice of using a tripod can be beneficial to you. Also consider a cable or wireless shutter release mechanism for extra camera stillness.

3. Look for a Focal Point

great landscape photography tips - focul points.

By luigi

All shots need some sort of focal point to them and landscapes are no different – in fact landscape photographs without them end up looking rather empty and will leave your viewers eye wondering through the image with nowhere to rest (and they’ll generally move on quickly).Focal points can take many forms in landscapes and could range from a building or structure, a striking tree, a boulder or rock formation, a silhouette etc.Think not only about what the focal point is but where you place it. The rule of thirds might be useful here.

4. Think Foregrounds

Using the foreground in landscape photography.

By Eleder Jimenez Hermoso

One element that can set apart your landscape shots is to think carefully about the foreground of your shots and by placing points of interest in them. When you do this you give those viewing the shot a way into the image as well as creating a sense of depth in your shot.

5. Consider the Sky

Using the sky in landscape photography.

By Trey Ratcliff

Another element to consider is the sky in your landscape.

Most landscapes will either have a dominant foreground or sky – unless you have one or the other your shot can end up being fairly boring.

If you have a bland, boring sky – don’t let it dominate your shot and place the horizon in the upper third of your shot (however you’ll want to make sure your foreground is interesting). However if the sky is filled with drama and interesting cloud formations and colors – let it shine by placing the horizon lower.

Consider enhancing skies either in post production or with the use of filters (for example a polarizing filter can add color and contrast).

6. Lines

Composition in landscape photography.

By Pierre Metivier

One of the questions to ask yourself as you take Landscape shots is ‘how am I leading the eye of those viewing this shot’? There are a number of ways of doing this (foregrounds is one) but one of the best ways into a shot is to provide viewers with lines that lead them into an image.

Lines give an image depth, scale and can be a point of interest in and of themselves by creating patterns in your shot.

7. Capture Movement

Capturing movement in landscape photography.

By Toby Keller

When most people think about landscapes they think of calm, serene and passive environments – however landscapes are rarely completely still and to convey this movement in an image will add drama, mood and create a point of interest.

Examples – wind in trees, waves on a beach, water flowing over a waterfall, birds flying over head, moving clouds.

Capturing this movement generally means you need to look at a longer shutter speed (sometimes quite a few seconds). Of course this means more light hitting your sensor which will mean you need to either go for a small Aperture, use some sort of a filter or even shoot at the start or end of the day when there is less light.

8. Work with the Weather

Working with the weather when taking landscape photos.

By luigi

A scene can change dramatically depending upon the weather at any given moment. As a result, choosing the right time to shoot is of real importance.

Many beginner photographers see a sunny day and think that it’s the best time to go out with their camera – however an overcast day that is threatening to rain might present you with a much better opportunity to create an image with real mood and ominous overtones. Look for storms, wind, mist, dramatic clouds, sun shining through dark skies, rainbows, sunsets and sunrises etc and work with these variations in the weather rather than just waiting for the next sunny blue sky day.

9. Work the Golden Hours

Taking landscapes and dawn and dusk.

By Dominik

I chatted with one photographer recently who told me that he never shoots during the day – his only shooting times are around dawn and dusk – because that’s when the light is best and he find that landscapes come alive.

These ‘golden’ hours are great for landscapes for a number of reasons – none the least of which is the ‘golden’ light that it often presents us with. The other reason that I love these times is the angle of the light and how it can impact a scene – creating interesting patterns, dimensions and textures.

It’s an old tip but a good one – before you take a landscape shot always consider the horizon on two fronts.

  • Is it straight? – while you can always straighten images later in post production it’s easier if you get it right in camera.
  • Where is it compositionally? – a compositionally natural spot for a horizon is on one of the thirds lines in an image (either the top third or the bottom one) rather than completely in the middle. Of course rules are meant to be broken – but I find that unless it’s a very striking image that the rule of thirds usually works here.

11. Change your Point of View

introduction to landscape photography

By luigi

You drive up to the scenic lookout, get out of the car, grab your camera, turn it on, walk up to the barrier, raise the camera to your eye, rotate left and right a little, zoom a little and take your shot before getting back in the car to go to the next scenic lookout.

We’ve all done it – however this process doesn’t generally lead to the ‘wow’ shot that many of us are looking for.

Take a little more time with your shots – particularly in finding a more interesting point of view to shoot from. This might start with finding a different spot to shoot from than the scenic look out (wander down paths, look for new angles etc), could mean getting down onto the ground to shot from down low or finding a higher up vantage point to shoot from.

Explore the environment and experiment with different view points and you could find something truly unique.

Also check out the new Landscape Photography eBook.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

5 Easy Steps to Help The Great Barrier Reef.

To re-phrase Mark Twain, ‘News of her death is greatly exaggerated’. 
The Great Barrier Reef is not dead. She’s just a little under the weather.
As the largest living organism on the planet she’s been through the wringer in the last few years – the pressures of human development and pollution are starting to affect her.
But she’s not done yet. 
Not by a long shot.
The people who live with her daily know that she has strategies and tactics to protect herself. Coral bleaching is just one of them. And while a reef that is coral bleached can look all doom and gloom, with better conditions it can start to repair itself.

Exploreinawe has just spent 5 days in Cairns, Far North Queensland. Seeing her from above, with GSL Aviation, underwater with Passions of Paradise Cruise and Dive Boats and talking to the dedicated men and women giving her a helping hand, like The Reef Restoration Foundation and Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, Fitzroy Island. To a person, this tireless group was adamant that the Reef is healthy. But they weren’t apathetic about the future. Single Use Plastic has to be stopped. Climate Change has to be addressed. 
We returned home marvelling at this Natural Wonder of the World, and amazed at the commitment of the people helping it survive the 21st Century.

Watch our videos. See what you can do, no matter where you are. And help the Reef thrive so that generations to come can explore in awe this magnificent living organism

Thanks to Tourism Tropical North Queensland for helping put the trip together so fast, and so well!

All video footage and images ©Exploreinawe.com

Gareth Phillips is the Captain of Passions of Paradise. Here’s his take on the simple things we can all do to help the Reef thrive.

How to swim with Whale Sharks.

There’s no greater misnamed organism in Mother Nature’s bag of tricks than the Whale Shark.

Whales are mammals. It’s a fish.  Sharks, as is the perception, have big nasty teeth and eat bloody meat. These beautiful creatures  are more like a shark vegetarian that learnt to chill out.

They are large – the largest fish in the ocean and truly a sight to behold. We went swimming with the Whale Sharks at Ningaloo reef, off Exmouth WA, with charter boat company Charter 1. You depart the coast in a good sized cabin cruiser, big enough for 20 or so explorers and all the snorkelling kit that’s needed. The crew are friendly and uber professional, which was reassuring for all the young backpackers on board who looked like they may have never experienced anything quite like this. Everyone settled in, expecting, as I was after visiting the snorkelling holes off Port Douglas, that we would be motoring for the good part of an hour. But no sooner had we started than we stopped, land seemed not more than 500 metres away.

Then the search began, slowly the boat moved up and down the coast, looking for tell tales signs that there were Whale Sharks about. Two or three of the crew members, wearing their industrial strength flippers, launched themselves into the water. They were the forward search party. Suddenly one was found, a frantic waving arm shot into the air, with an encouraging scream – and the boat, quickly but gently, turned to get closer to the find.  He was breathlessly back on deck. “There are two or three …they’re large, just slowly cruising north”.

Everyone was ready, waiting for this moment. A boatload of pale Germans and Brits in their snorkels and flippers were suddenly moving to the open stern and flinging themselves into the water, like Gentoo penguins after some glacial squid.

Led by a crew member, we were stroking forward to find the beautiful prize. Swimming, head under water (unfortunately a little murky) peering for something, anything.

Then out of the shadows, it appears. No noise. No ripples in the water. No exclamation of its presence. It was simply there. Rhincodon typus.

 

Pardon the cliché but – words can’t explain the experience. It’s true. You don’t feel threatened. You simply feel in awe.

And then you see another, not far behind and then another.  “Oh stop it” you think, “now you’re just showing off”.  They slowly move away, too far to follow without the safe anchor of the boat. So we head back and start the search again. More Whale Sharks are found, more swimming in awe ensues.

 

After a well deserved and delicious lunch,  there’s exploring the reefs closer in to discover small coral communities of tiny, violently blue fish and turtles.

 

It was an inspiring day, professionally run and handled by a seasoned crew. Do it.  Don’t wait another day. It may just change your life.

Trip Guide:  Things to take 1) A Go Pro or Action Cam with underwater housing is a must. 2) A wrist tether or neck lanyard for the camera. You don’t want to drop it into unknown depths. 3) Your own, good fitting, flippers and snorkel. No matter the charter company, they’ll provide a range of shapes and sizes, but you may miss out on your perfect fit. There’s nothing worse than swimming away from a boat as you feel a flipper slowly sliding off your foot. 4) Sunscreen. A given I know, but hey it doesn’t hurt to remind you.

Images: © Charter 1 and Tim Bond

Exploring an alien landscape

There are a few places on this earth where can you mistakenly believe that you are on an alien planet. Not just the landscape, but the feel of the environment, is foreign and unknown.  As we travelled through the mesa country of the American South West, we were awestruck, but felt at home. These rocky, flat top mountains, (Mesa is Spanish for ‘table’) were instantly recognisable thanks to countless documentaries and John Ford Westerns. And although we were awestruck in their presence, we expected them. They were of this planet.

The Coral Coast in central Western Australia, however is another story. I think this location may be why the word ‘ancient’ was created. The dirt is red, gravelly (like little bauxite balls) and rocky. The animals are weird and unusual (this is Australia, after all) and the environment is ‘Mars with oxygen and gravity’.

Cape Range National Park

You drive for hours through ‘big sky country’ where the landscape changes from flat to flatter. Bar of course, the rocky ridge that runs parallel to the coast. Not tall, maybe 200m high, it follows the coastline. It’s later when you’re standing in awe of the blues and whites of Turquoise Bay,  that someone mentions that that rocky ridge, is from the Devonian Era and is the remnant of a vast coral reef  that once hugged the coast, submerged, on the ocean side!

Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo

It’s been uplifted and worn down, weather-beaten and drenched in sunlight, over millions of years – if not millions and millions.  

Just then one or two crazy emus scurry past, almost tripping over themselves, and the feeling of ‘other place’, becomes even stronger. 

Later you find yourself perched high on a gravel road looking down a red rocky gorge in the Cape Range National Park Canyons, towards the sea that is so blue, it embarrasses the sky above. Although it’s nothing like the size and magnitude of The Grand Canyon, it only adds to the eeriness and solitude of this place. 

The Coral Coast’s main town, Exmouth, is not an old community and is full of likeable rascals, most of whom seem to be escaping something, either the past or the southern weather. They’re quick with laconic advice or stories, and happily tell you tales of wild cyclones and wild life.

The centre was founded in the nineteen sixties as a part of Australia’s defence agreement with the US and was built around the United States Communications Station ’The Harold E Holt’. There are thirteen large communications antennae (the largest as tall as the Eiffel Tower) outside the town. We were told they enable America to talk to its Submarines under the Arctic Circle. It was manned by a small but dedicated force of American servicemen but after the attacks of September 11, they were all shipped home.

It appears they just left everything exactly as it had been. That means there are still soda cans in the drink machines, and leather soled shoes in the bases’ bowling alley. The images this news conjures  brings visions of ‘The Twilight Zone’  and only help cement the surreal nature of the place. Today it is ‘restricted access’ and protected by the Australian Federal Police.  The locals seem quite proud of the whole thing.

The Coral Coast feels other worldly, void of the vulgar trappings that tourists can bring to an area. Yet there are tourists to be found, especially grey nomads, but on this particular large, flat, red planet, they easily disappear from view. This is the closest that I have come, and probably ever culturally could, to having a feeling of ‘dreamtime’. 

The spectacular night skies, the almost unbearable silence, the timeless aura of the landscape, the strong echoes of an ancient past – all create emotions and feelings you will never experience anywhere else.

If you’re looking for a bucolic scene of verdant hills rolling into a glorious sunset, this isn’t the place. But if you’re after a destination to challenge your senses, to force you to see the earth in a different light and then understand how temporary is our stay, explore the Coral Coast. If you’re at all aware, you’ll be in awe.

Travel doesn’t have to be EXPENSIVE.

We love to travel. It seems we were born wearing a backpack and a passport in our hand.  (57% of Australians have a passport – as of 2010 that’s double the US and about the same as Europe.)

In 2017 over 8,000 Aussies applied for a passport everyday.

Yet travel can be expensive. Damn expensive. The best thing for all of us was the introduction of  budget airlines like Air Asia, Jetstar, Scoot and brands like RyanAir in Europe. So getting away isn’t quite as expensive as it used to be…but the costs when you get ‘there’, wherever ‘there’ may be, can be crippling. Accomodation, car rental, food, tips (I love that we pay wait staff a living wage so that tips are discretionary) can really eat into an already tight budget.

But there are ways to get around it. Sure New York is great if you stay at the Carlisle, but believe me it’s just as good if you stay at the YMCA.

(OK maybe not ‘just as good’, but good nonetheless!) And if you’re traveling with a group, it really makes sense to stay in a holiday rental, and share the costs. There’s nothing like staying in a brownstone in Chelsea, with your own kitchen.

But I digress.

Some of the world’s best destinations are still off the beaten path, and so are not quite as expensive. The Vagabrothers have put together their list of 31 Insanely Affordable Budget Travel Destinations.  You’ve just got to get there first, right? Enjoy.